Category Archives: Study Visits

OCA Study Visit – Richard Long – Time and Space – Arnolfini, Bristol 03/10/15

I have been interested to see Richard Long’s work after being given his name (and Andy Goldsworthy’s) by one of my previous tutors during a discussion about long distance walking.

img006

http://www.arnolfini.org.uk/whatson/richard-long-time-and-space

My current project “Walking Home” involves a 41 mile walk over three days, tracing closely the drive I make regularly to visit my mother at our family home in Bognor Regis where I was brought up. Having completed the walk, I wanted to look at the way Long works with time,  distance and the landscape, hoping to be inspired as I present images of personal significance in an area that means so much to me.

I found Richard Long’s ideas beautifully simple, that walking and journeys are common to all mankind in all eras. As soon as we can stand, we place one foot in front of another and move through space at a pace which is natural and allows us to observe the world around us as we travel. This is what walkers find so inspiring and why it is such a popular pastime. If you give your walk a purpose or apply an original idea to it (as Long does) then it is art.

Richard Long presents his created  art from walking in several ways. As an idea in text, or as a mark or construction in the landscape which is then recorded as a photograph and left as a semi permanent sculpture. Whichever method of presentation is used, the walk is completed and even though invisible, it is always present  and referred to as an idea.

WP_20151003_11_23_32_Pro WP_20151003_11_25_47_Pro

In these examples. Long has, (I think) related locations and events to the thoughts he was having at the time or words that express his response to those locations and events. In the second example, he has distilled the five day experience into twelve words arranged so their lengths evokes a perspective.

image

Richard Long – A line in the Himalayas 1975  – Made on a 23 day walk in Nepal

This image is one of the photographs used for the publicity of this exhibition. It also appears in the book I bought there, “The Art of Walking – a field guide” I was interested by the accompanying text in the book, written by Long in 1988: “There are a lot of things theoretical and intellectual to say about lines and circles, but I think the very fact that they are images that don’t belong to me and, in fact, are shared by everyone because they have existed throughout history, actually makes them more powerful  than if  I was inventing my own idiosyncratic, particular Richard Long type images. I think it cuts out a lot of personal unwanted aesthetic paraphernalia.

Richard Long also uses the materials of the landscape for his art, a mud installation made from the sediments of the river Avon near Bristol. The work is called Muddy Waterfalls and again was used in the publicity material for the Arnolfini Exhibition.

image

Finally, I was impressed by the massive cruciform sculpture made with loose slate blocks laid on the floor of the gallery. With little or no explanatory text, the viewer is left to reflect on the piece. It’s presence in the room is massive and we started looking for a pattern or system of construction. We discussed its thickness – would it have the same impact if the blocks were thinner? We decided that the weight and impact would be less if this were the case. Images of the construction on Long’s website gave no real clue as to the system of construction other than you can see taped markers on the floor as a guide to the shape. As in most of his work, the art is in the execution, the piece is just the evidence of that effort.

WP_20151003_11_27_06_Pro WP_20151003_11_27_45_Pro
Advertisements

Rencontres des Arles 2015 3–5 September

Notes: Two days spent in Arles with OCA students, Principal Gareth Dent and Tutor Jesse Alexander. A variety of the many exhibits available were seen in the time available. I have shown these chronologically and given weight to those that I thought more relevant to my current studies  and those that particularly interested me. I will continue to research and read about these photographers after this post.

Day 1 –  4 September

WP_20150904_10_55_08_Pro

Stephen Shore: This massive exhibition covered Shore’s lifetime body of work. Apart from owning and reading his book “The Nature of Photographs”, until now I knew very little about his work and have had to do some research into the work we have seen. I thought it best to look at his website to research the relevant work. http://www.stephenshore.net/info.php

Stephen Shore on Uncommon Places https://vimeo.com/32562146

On American Surfaces https://vimeo.com/32521780

On New York City https://vimeo.com/131859555

I can only really sum up briefly what I thought of this work. It seems that although I had not consciously seen Shore’s work it seemed familiar and similar to other work by photographers working at the same time. Shore talked about “un-mediated” images “with no pretensions to art” which seems ironic as he is one of the photographers credited with the acceptance of colour photography as art during this period. His large format images are stunning, not only in their composition but their use of colour. I cannot understand the establishment viewpoint of the time that art photography could only be in black and white. When I started in photography in the 1960’s I was desperate to to work in colour but the  scant availability of media and cost of processing  was prohibitive.  He claims that he works by setting himself challenges which require him to solve problems. Once the problem is overcome, he moves onto the next challenge. I found his 2001 New York City images made an impression on me where he has totally inverted the idea of the street photograph as something spontaneous and set up a field of view, pre-focussed, inserted the film and waited for the  players to assemble. The spontaneity comes from the moment when the shutter is caused to open by the photographer. The images were presented in a darkened gallery at very close to life size which I thought was very effective.

Toon Michaels: American Neon Signs by Day and Night

This typological study, made in the 1970’s in Reno, Las Vegas and other US cities, was unusual for its time in that colour photography was still outside the “art” world.

DSCF5728

The pairs of images of the same scene made by day and night contrast the banality of the daylight scene against the saturated and garish night time view. I very quickly got bored with this exhibit and started looking for differences. I did find at least one pair in which the some of the illuminated letters had failed to show in the night time scene. I have to say that I am not a big fan of typologies. They say more about the lack of imagination of the photographer, relying as he does on obsessively recording similar scenes. (I’m thinking what my tutor would say if I presented this as an assignment) Ten  pairs would have been enough to make the point. It was a good venue and the work was well presented but the space was wasted on this exhibit.

Jean Marie Donat: Vernacular

This exhibit showed three collections from publisher Jean Marie Donat with the titles Predator, Teddy Bar and Blackface. Each collection was made from found archives and each was disturbing, either by the content of the photographs or by what could be imagined when looking at them. Dressing up in a Bear costume and posing with holiday makers at resorts, would I suppose seem acceptable in places where bears have a strong historical presence or association, (USA and Germany)  and provide employment for commercial photographers in an era when owning and using a camera was unusual and seen as difficult. What seems odd about these particular images is sometimes how fierce and  unfriendly the bear seems. They seem to have been taken in the period before and during WW2. The whole idea seems very odd and I was wondering why until I read about the picture of a Hitler Youth girl posing with the swastika clearly shown on her clothing. I could see that the collection had a duality, carefree day trippers and the presence of the Nazi threat effectively juxtaposed.

Predator is presented with a similar but un-named “threat”. Donat has sought out dozens of photographs in which the hatted shadow of the “photographer” appears in the foreground. Immediately I started to question this collection. Was the photographer deliberately including himself in this way? Why are there no pictures where the photographer is not wearing a hat? If they are from different photographers, is this some forgotten game played by photographers of the period? Why are there so many photographers so careless about lighting and composition? Finally, is the inclusion of a shadow merely a manipulation for effect? Perhaps this is a “trademark” of a particular group of photographers. I think the point Donat is making is that this un-named, mysterious presence could be a threat……

Blackface presents a look at the strange phenomenon of white people wearing black make-up in the pretence of being Negroes. In retrospect the idea seems almost unbelievably insensitive but at the time, it indicated just how little attention was paid to the feelings of minorities in the pursuit of entertainment. Photographic artist Anna Fox has recently done a piece on “Zwarte Piet, the blacked up assistant to St Nicholas found as part of the        Dutch Christmas Festivities, who, like Othello has Moroccan origins. http://www.annafox.co.uk/work/zwarte-piet/

Alice Wielinga: North Korea, A Life between Propaganda and Reality. This multimedia work was presented as an audio visual sequence with spoken commentary, music and constructed images which contrast the propagandized presentation of North Korea and the reality of the situation as witnessed by the photographer. Many of the images were constructed using the the official government photographs/paintings and Wielinga’s own photographs.

At the next venue, the work of several photographers was shown in two collections An Unusual Attention and An Exchange of Views. Both were avant garde but at this distance in time and at the end of a long day, my recollections are a bit unclear. The first collection was by four students Cloe Vignaud, Lois Matton, Swen Renault, and Pablo Mendez. The second sees three students looking at the work of established photographers, reworking and re-inventing it. I’ll do a search on the names to see if I can remind myself of the details.

The final exhibition of the day was this one:

DSCF5753

Of the exhibitions we saw today, this was the one I liked the most. It did not have the scale of the Shore exhibit but it was certainly large and ambitious in its intentions. The accompanying website shows interviews with Paulo Woods and other information on the company that is ‘The Heavens’.

http://www.theheavensllc.com/

DSCF5765

The project questions the morality of tax havens even though they may be legal, the deficit of avoided tax on local economies can be significant. The exhibition is set up in the “offices” of the “The Heavens”, a real company incorporated in Delaware USA, complete with reception and board room. To convey the impact of  tax avoidance by global companies, the first part of the exhibition shows the logos or products of familiar brands, backlit in a darkened room. The following rooms are normally lit and show large prints with comprehensive explanatory captions. As Paulo Woods explains, the concept of a tax haven is something difficult to grasp and even more difficult to convey in photographs. He and Galimberti succeed by taking us to the locations and giving an insight into what goes on, not only at the top of the social scale but the stark contrast of a woman working as a maid to a wealthy family, forced into prostitution to make ends meet.

After looking at the exhibition I started to consider whether I should reorganise my finances to avoid companies that encourage and condone tax avoidance. After some thought I decided  such action was pointless. The changes required need to come from within the financial sector. Money is power but unfortunately, transparency  in global financial dealings still has a long road ahead of it.

Day 2 – 5 September

It has been some time since I wrote up day 1 (work on assignments has taken priority) so my recollections may be a little hazy but I’ll do my best to recall where we were and what we saw.

First stop was the Grande Halle, Parc des Ateliers where there were a number of photographers work on show. For me, one of the most original was Thierry Bouet’s “Personal Affairs”. Talking about his work here: http://rencontres-arles-photo.tv/en/thme/arles-2015/#thierry-bouet he explains that he was amazed at the objects people sell on-line and wanted to tell a story about these objects in one picture. He says that his images are all staged in order to make a picture that is, in his opinion, suitable for an exhibition. However he stresses that all of the pictures tell the truth in that the location, people and objects are all real.

DSCF5776

In the same hall was Ambroise Tezenas “I Was Here – Dark Tourism” a disturbing look at the trend for tour companies to take tourists to the scene’s of war, atrocities and natural disasters. http://rencontres-arles-photo.tv/en/thme/arles-2015/#20778  Five years in the making, Tezenas signed up for tours to disaster sites and went,  as a tourist, for the same short period of time and photographed from the same locations. He remarks on the graffiti scrawled on a wall in Cambodia; “I Was Here” and questions the right that some feel they have to record their presence with little or no respect for the sensitivities of those effected directly by the disaster.

Marcus Brunetti “Facades” was a massive collection of European Churches, photographed architecturally in very flat light and printed very large. As a typology it has to be admired but I couldn’t get excited about such a large collection. A niche interest I think. http://rencontres-arles-photo.tv/en/thme/arles-2015/#markus-brunetti

Gareth set us a challenge before lunch, take a look at the exhibits for the “Discovery Awards” 2014 and select our choice for the winner and explain why. With only 30 minutes and 10 exhibits to look at, surprisingly not everyone finished. From the 6 that I managed to look at in the time, my favourite was Delphine Chanet’s constructed reality of the exploration of the world by a group of adolescent girls which told a story of young lives embarking on the journey to adulthood. Asked why I like this, I had to admit that it was probably because I didn’t have daughters, but I immediately recognised aspects of the attitudes and behaviour of my teenage grand-daughters. It took me back to the time when I was not a child nor adult when everything was confusing, sometimes scary but always and adventure. http://delphinechanet.com/projects/prix-decouverte/

The first exhibit in the afternoon was called Congo by Alex Majoli and Paulo Pellegrin. http://rencontres-arles-photo.tv/en/?s=Congo&lang=en#alex-majoli-paolo-pellegrin A large exhibition designed to be shown without captions and curated using the work of two photographers who wanted to show Africa free from the preconceptions and structures of photojournalism. It was skilfully presented and had a light mood, showing what I thought of as perhaps Africa as the people see it, life as they live it.

DSCF5786

After this we moved to the Total Records exhibit to see the  exhibit devoted to the art of the album cover and almost as an afterthought, to view three images submitted and displayed by myself, Gareth and Mirjam in the Sleeve faces  exhibition:

DSCF5799

 

 DSCF5800

Mine

DSCF5799

Mirjam’s

DSCF5798

Gareth and Julia’s

This was the icing on the cake for me Although my image didn’t make the book, it was gratifying to be recognised at such a prestigious festival.

DSCF5792

A very enjoyable two days in a beautiful city with convivial company, a comfortable hotel and good food. I shall be back!

 

Study Visit: Jem Southam Talk–Exeter Central Library–11 April 2015

 

DSCF4172

Jem Southam discusses a point with Amano at Saturday’s Study Visit.

After a brief introduction by tutor Jesse Alexander, Jem Southam proceeded to deliver a fascinating talk on his many years experience of landscape photography and some of his work. He is a lively and entertaining speaker and he treated us to a wealth of amusing and serious anecdotes around his life and practice. He started by introducing the idea that traditionally landscape was seen from a very narrow pictorial viewpoint. The introduction of the New Topographies heralded a critical approach to landscape where the effect of man’s intervention was examined. Jem also talked about the connection between landscape photography and what he called “Cultural Geography” – the ways in which we use and interact with the landscape. He also pointed out several times that landscapes are intensely contested spaces. His method of working is to repeatedly photograph the same scene to record the changes that occur over a period of perhaps several years or perhaps a decade and  longer. He likes to work locally arguing that traditionally, individuals experienced their environment not on a grand national scale but on a short daily walking routine. Ref: Thomas A Clark 1988, In Praise of Walking.

Over the following couple of hours, Jem talked at length about some of his work and I have summarised his talk under these headings:

(expand these by further reading)


The Red River
1980s Jem was living in Cornwall and discovered a red stream.  He discovered that pictorial representations influence our approach and perceptions of what a landscape should be. Following the Red River to the sea, he divided the project into seven sections and associated each one with a myth. (e.g. the welcoming light in a window)

http://www.landscapestories.net/issue-12/ls_12-001-jem-southam-the-red-river?lang=en

Rock Falls & River Mouths In this series Jem looked at the natural sculpture and traumatic shifts of rock falls in the Isle of Wight, East Sussex and the Normandy Coast and at the erosion and shifts in position of river mouths.

The Pond at Upton Pyne This section of the talk provided us with some amusing and salutary anecdotes. In this six year project, Jem photographed the changes in response to the attempted “beautification” of the pond by two successive individuals and the conflicts this caused locally to the neighbours and the ultimate friction with the landowner when the work came to be exhibited.

http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/l/landscape-photography-jem-southam/

We also looked at “The River, Winter” which examined the river Ex and its tributaries over one winter. Jem carried out an interesting experiment with school children, asking them “What is a river?” and asking them to make a picture of a river to describe what a river is.

http://www.mackbooks.co.uk/books/48-The-River-Winter.html

Jem then went on to talk about what he called The Snippet – a commissioned work in which he was asked to photograph the Cumbrian Coast around Maryport once an intensely industrial landscape, now desolate.  His work was accompanied by texts and artefacts from  fellow travellers who included his ornithologist brother and a “walking poet” who produced a word map of their walk. He mentioned Wordsworth’s poem “On Black Combe” in which are mentioned “Geographic Labourers” (early mapmakers). He says he likes to consider himself as such.

From this point we looked at work that had been brought by various students. I presented eight more images from my on-going project on the redevelopment of Bordon.  Jem thought it was a good project and wondered whether I could expand it and include it in local archives. I told about the Bordon Reflections project and hoped that although this was very new and was concentrating on the past, I was hopeful that the inclusion of present and future developments would lead to a more permanent record. On 16th April I will be given access inside the wire of Louisburg Barracks. An opportunity to revisit a former workplace after 11 years.

I think this was a worthwhile and fascinating visit. I found myself constantly in sympathy with Jem’s views and ideas. I feel inspired to try new approaches to my own projects. Landscape is my next level 2 course and the genre in which I wish to specialise. I can’t wait to get started….

Open for Business – Student led Study Visit, Science Museum – 30 October 2014

For this visit I met up with Peter and John, members of the OCA SW Group. The exhibition was held amongst the main galleries of the museum – rather than the Media Space where previous exhibitions have been shown.

Arts Agency, Multistory and Magnum Photos commissioned nine of the worlds leading photographers to document British manufacturing industry at a critical time. The resulting images show that Britain is still “Open for Business”. The nine photographers, Stuart Franklin, David Hurn, Peter Marlow, Martin Parr, Mark Power, Chris Steele-Perkins, Alessandra Sanguinetti, Bruce Gilden and Jonas Bendiksen each photographed in different areas of the UK in over a hundred workplaces which ranged from sole traders to multinational corporations. I have chosen to write about two photographers whose work is very different, Stuart Franklin and Bruce Gilden.

Stuart Franklin has a long history of photographing the sea and ships. Amongst his contribution to the exhibition were photographs of the construction of the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth at Rosyth Dockyard and wind and wave energy projects on the land and off the coast of Scotland. His images are in black and white. (All the other contributions were in colour) On his website there are slideshows of both the Carrier and the Alternative Energy Scotland, galleries. http://www.stuartfranklin.com/recent-work Thinking about the subject matter and its monochromatic nature, black and white was probably an ideal choice. Franklin mentioned in his write up the community feel of the yard at Rosyth…”men coming and going together in large groups, to work, to eat or to rest”… but the images are primarily about the manufactured objects themselves.

WP_20141030_13_01_40_Pro

By contrast, Bruce Gilden’s images of workers at the Tate and Lyle and Vauxhall factories in London, taken in his customary unflattering style (as in his street photography) shows the physical effects of manual labour. It was interesting to note from Bruce Gilden’s interview that he chose his subjects for something  in their appearance that would make a memorable or distinctive picture. It was also interesting to note that to achieve the close up portraits he had his assistant hand hold the flash.

WP_20141030_13_15_56_Pro 

The Project website gives examples of work, information and video interviews with the photographers:

http://www.openforbusiness.uk.com/

Brighton Photo Biennial Study Weekend

 

This was another successful study event. Some time has passed since I returned from Brighton so my notes are reliant on my memory and the printed material I managed to pick up at the different events.

Saturday 18th October 2014

University of Brighton Gallery – Plane Materials

This installation looks at the agency and form of photography as art, it is the Afterimage series which was made by deconstructing photographs laminated onto aluminium sheets.  The viewer is asked to view the work and see his own interpretations or identify real or imagined remnants of the original work.

DSCF1784

This exhibit prompted a lively discussion with a variety of interpretations of the visible effects on the polished aluminium surfaces. This of course was the purpose of the work, ‘contemporary conversations around how photography is represented’

Real Britain 1974 – Co-optic and Documentary Photography

Forty years ago the Co-optic Group (including Martin Parr, Daniel Meadows, Nick Hedges, Fay Godwin and Gerry Badger) started the Real Britain postcard project. Although this was only a small show, I enjoyed the classic street photography, the quirky juxtapositions and the eccentricity of some of the images. These were politicised views reflecting the times.

WP_20141018_11_43_52_Pro

A range of work was on show as described above, including those shown in this link to a Guardian article about the show: http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/gallery/2014/oct/16/spacehoppers-enoch-powell-real-british-life-1970s-pictures

This exhibit covers a similar period and contains some work shown in the Only in England exhibition I saw earlier this year: http://rjdown-dpp-log.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/Only%20in%20England

Ref. further discussions on this show in the Photoworks Annual 21 p42

Amore e Piombo – The Photography of extremes in 1970s Italy at the Brighton Museum.

Centring around the violent events of the kidnap and murder of Aldo Moro in 1978, this installation seems to move  historical photojournalism firmly into the realm of art photography. Apart from the historical significance and the violent nature of some of the images, the way in which these photographs were displayed using the existing furniture of what appeared to be a conference room, gave the collection more impact. Single images were displayed on shelves in niches, some horizontally on pedestals on the floor at different levels, some printed extremely large and in montages. All this had the effect of making the viewer look closely and making him move around the exhibition. A far cry from the series of wall hung frames at the same level found in most galleries.

DSCF1787

Vantage Point – 4th floor collective

There was an awful lot of work on show on this floor. One exhibit in particular caught my attention:

288 Days – Amelia Shepherd

This piece, presented as a montage of photocopied images with text, documents a pregnancy (something  I found relevant as my fourth grandchild is expected at the end of the year) “Shepherd looks to confront and negotiate a public gaze and its impact on one her own expectations and responses”  This was an interesting installation, again because of the way it was presented. The work consisted of text and montage pasted and pinned tot he wall. More here: http://ameliashepherd.com/

Amongst the rest I spotted Inhabit by Alison Bettles, Fergus Heron, Alison Stolwood. Prints included cascades of white sheets, a music stand & lemon tree, some plants with butterflies and three urban views with water. I managed to find this quote about the exhibit from the BPB Fringe website:

Inhabit brings together work by three artists exploring intersecting domestic and natural worlds. Each deals with questions of picturing domesticity and nature, referencing traditional genres of landscape, interior and still life. Collectively, the works propose contemporary, complex and interwoven interpretations, offering reflection upon photography as a medium and technology involved with depiction, trace and mimicry of nature within and around domestic environments.

I thought this was an interesting approach which has elements that could apply to reading I have been doing on Psychogeography.

More about Fergus Heron’s work can be found here: http://www.fergusheron.com/about/index.html

Alison Bettles’ website is here: http://www.alisonbettles.com/page2.htm

Alison Stolwood has information here: http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2012/jun/27/alison-stolwood-best-photograph

and here: http://www.alisonstolwood.com/index.html

I thought that to bring the work of these three photographers into one exhibit was an interesting exercise.

Among the other exhibits was a series called “The Shot I Never Forgot” where various artists were asked for the shot which was significant for a particular reason. The images were widely varied as were the reasons that the photographers gave for their significance.

http://www.ourworldmyeye.com/category/posttopics/theshotineverforgot/

Similarly interesting were the series “Strawberries in December” and “Brighton Wasted” both of which can be viewed here: http://www.merge-collective.com/untitled-gallery.

“Strawberries in December” pictures the environmental impact of intensive fruit farming in Andalucía, whereas the series “Brighton Wasted” consists of a series of objects, natural and man made which are washed up on the shoreline. An indicator of the serious problem caused by pollution of the sea by oil-based  plastic waste. The images are produced by a scanner rather than a camera which gives them an interesting quality.

“Shot at Dawn”  Chloe Dewe-Matthews – a talk at the Jubilee Library about her project for  14-18 NOW. Unfortunately I arrived to late to get a seat in the library so taking notes was a problem. However, this link shows a video of Chloe talking about the project and a Guardian article by Sean O’Hagan which explains the historical background to the project.

http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2014/jun/29/chloe-dewe-mathews-shot-at-dawn-moving-photographic-memorial-first-world-war

Sunday 19th October 2014

The day started with a portfolio review session at the Jubilee Library. Various students presented work and I received help from tutor Russell Squires in the selection of images for my Assignment 2 project “Remembering”.  I also made various notes for ideas on future projects.  I’ve Jotted down “using map locations to inform photographs”  and “Mark Power “. I looked at Mark Power’s website www.markpower.co.uk and got absorbed by “Shipping Forecast”, “A380” and “Black Country Stories” some of which have no doubt sown seeds in my mind for future work. Russell also mentioned using Geocaching as a source of images.

The name Ann Hardy was mentioned: http://anne-hardy.co.uk/ but it seems that her work involves major constructions which appear sculptural rather than photographic.

From the Jubilee Library we moved onto the Phoenix Brighton where there were a variety of exhibits, the most prominent being “Re-mapping the Flaneur” from the Collectives Encounter which was originally shown in Newcastle in 2011: https://collectivesencounter.wordpress.com/2011/05/19/remapping-the-flaneur/ explains what the project is and who contributed to it. It is significant perhaps that  the way the images were presented overshadowed the images themselves. It seemed as if the presentation was more important somehow as a lot of the pictures could not really be appreciated because of the position they occupied.

 

From here a group of us moved to the “Circus” to look at the Contemporary Collectives Exhibits. Among the most interesting was the “Return to Elsewhere” project by photographers Kalpesh Lathigra (UK) and Thabisco Sekgala (SA) which examined the links between Indian communities in Marabastad and Laudium in South Aftrica and Brighton. (It is sad to note that Thabisco Sekgala passed away in Johannesburg during October) There is a link to the webpages here: http://bpb.org.uk/2014/event/a-return-to-elsewhere/

WP_20141019_14_39_15_ProWP_20141019_14_45_16_Pro

Overall this was a very informative and inspirational weekend. There was a lot that we didn’t see but I am sure the experience of attending my second BPB event has benefitted my studies as I make progress through the Documentary course.

Zig-Zag–the work of Francesca Woodman–Victoria Miro Gallery–4th October 2014

This study visit was led by Sharon Boothroyd. It was a small exhibition of just 25 prints from an artist who died by her own hand in 1981 at the age of 23. The daughter of American artists, her work has been widely shown worldwide.

These prints showed mainly her work derived from the zig-zag diagonals which she found around her and photographed at any opportunity.  I must say I found the whole thing very enigmatic. Beyond the obvious exploration of form, I found that it lacked (for me anyway) any obvious meaning.

I was struck by the similarity between this method of contorting herself into the frame of her pictures, to that of Arno Minkkinen into his own landscapes with self portraits.

Woodman is not someone that I had heard of before this exhibition. The best article I read as background was this one from the Guardian:

http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2014/aug/31/searching-for-the-real-francesca-woodman

The hand out from the gallery was not clear enough to be reproduced here but images from the exhibition can be seen here: http://www.victoria-miro.com/exhibitions/463/

Study Visit– Stranger than fiction–Joan Fontcuberta – 26 Sept 2014

This exhibition was held in the Media Space at the London Science Museum

Prior to visiting the exhibition, I read this article from the Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2014/jul/08/joan-fontcuberta-stranger-than-fiction

FilmScans046

This is an impressive exhibition of work made over a period from 1987 to 2002. Fontcuberta is a Spanish artist/photographer born in 1955. This particular collection asks us to question the veracity of photography and especially the “authority” under which it is used. There are six distinct collections and each one is described briefly below.

Fauna (1987)

This museum display, a complete fabrication by Fontcuberta and Pere Formiguera, shows the archive of zoological discoveries of the fictional Peter Armeisenhaufen who researched into the ‘exceptions’ to Darwin’s theory of evolution. It is a complete exhibition with detailed notes, photographs and “specimens” It’s complexity, size and scope could make it believable  were it not for the fantastic nature of some of them.

Herbarium (1984)

This collection of black and white photographs, reminiscent of the detailed  work of Karl Blossfeldt, shows and names (in the style of Linnaeus) new species of plants. Again, questioning the truth of photographs, Fontcuberta has constructed these plants from existing plant materials, scrap metal and plastic into fantastic but believable specimens,

Orogenesis  (2002)

These mountain ranges have been generated by scanning existing works of art into a topographical geographical software program which converts contour lines into three dimensional landscape images. These frames are printed at large scale and show convincing geographical features.

Constellations (1993)

Another convincing collection of apparent images of the night sky showing named constellations. Fontcuberta made these by holding photographic paper against the windscreen of his car to record the fly specks and dirt accumulated during is travels.

Sirens (2000)

This construction and placement of “fossils” of so called Hydropithecus alpinus in the Provence region of France is the most convincing (or least unconvincing) of Fontcuberta’s  hoaxes, telling about the discovery of mer people in southern France.

Karelia, Miracles & Co (2002)

The most tongue in cheek of Fontcuberta’s collections of images in which he tries to convince us that monks in a certain monastery in Karelia (Finland) are taught to perform miracles and he is out to disprove it.

Growing up as he did in the final years of the France regime in Spain, Fontcuberta learned to question authority where government rewrote history for its own purposes. He says his photography is “a way to  challenge the authoritative discourse” As a former advertising professional he says “I learned how to lie” and that he enjoys “playing with ambiguity”.

Our discussion after the exhibition included reference to religious dogma  and the strength of organised and state religion in the formation of opinion and statements of “truth”. I think work like this is invaluable because it forces us to treat photography with a certain scepticism and not to accept blindly everything that is presented to us, no matter how convincingly it may be done.